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First Corgias Press Edition, 200·4. 'nlC special contcnts of this cdition arc copyright © 2004 b}' Corgia� Pre�s 1..1..c.

Al rights rcscnred undcr lntcrnational and Pan-Alllcrican Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States of Alllerica by Gorgias Press LLC, New J e rsey 111is edition is a facsimile reprint of the .

original edition published by Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1987.

ISBN 1-59333-102-9


46 Orris Ave., Pi scataway NJ 08854 USA ,

Primed and bound in the United States of America.



Introduction I

The Classical


3 The "Akccan


What Did the Meccans Where Were the Mt.:ccans Active? (, What Meccan Trade Was Not 7 What Meccan Trade

8 The

I-lave Been


and Mc."Cean Trade

The Sources ]0

'Ibe Rise of Islam

ApPeNDICES The Pro\-enance of Classical Cinnamon Calamus The


of Alol l7 1




This book owes its existence to the fact that kcturers in early Islamic history are supposed to know something about Meccan trade �ven if it docs not happen to interest them much. I should thus like to thank the students of Islamic subjects at Oxford for forcing me to get into the sub.. ject, and also for gracefully putt ing up with an cxaspcratlxl teachcr thereafter. If, much effort notwithstanding, the sense of exaspe rat ion still shows through in this book, all I can say is that I would not have written it without it. Further, I should like to thank r\drian Brockert, Michael ("..ook, Gerald l'!awling, Martin Hinds, and Fritz Zimmermann for reading and oommenting on drafts in various stages of Cnmpl�li()n. I am also indebted to Professor A. F. L. Beeston for assistance on south Arabian maners , to Professor J. Baines for speedy and helpful replies to Egyptological queries, to F. N. Hcppcr ofthe Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew for his views on a botanical problem, and to Professor l\1. G. Mo­ rony for a reaction 10 the typescript which gave me ampk warning of the potential unpopularity ofits contents.






Every first-year student knows that Mecca at the time of the Prophet was the centre of a far-flung trading empire. which plays a role of some importance in all orthodox accounts of the rise of Islam. Indt'Cd, the in tcrnational trade of the Meccans has achie\'ed such fame that nm onl y firs t-y ea r students, but also professional Islamicisls have come to con­ sider documentation to be quite s upe rflu ous. Thus i\lontgomery Walt, whosewcll-known imerpreIarion of Mul).ammad's li fe eentrcs on the im­ pact of commercial wealth on the social and Illoral order in I\keea. de­

v()\es less than a page of his tWQ -\'o lum e work to a discussion of the com·

merce from which the wealth in q uestion supposedly derived; and with references he dispenses ahogether.' Hut what do we actually know

about Mt'Ccan trade? The groundwork on the subjcct was done by Lam­ mens, a notoriously unreliable scholar whose name is r arely memiont-d in the st't.:ondary literature without some expression of caution or dis­ appro\' al, but whose conclusions would nonetheless appear to have been accepted by Watt.' More rttemly. various aSfNXts of the question have been taken up and richly documented by Kister.) Kister's work is ap parent ly held to corroborate the pictur e drawn up by Lammells; there

is. at least. no appreciable diffcrence between the portraits of Meccan

trade presented by Wan on the basis of Lammens. by Shaban on the ba­ sis of Kister. and by Donner on the basis of both.- But. in fact, neither • W. M. Wm.Mu/Jo"'''""1 M«(II. p. J. mmens. l� M«qllt d ItI �-nlk 1M rlJigirt; il. . "u rtpubliquc , II.

,\1""'1"" " e l'l l'an 6(x)(kt>Olre«�", cr. •1.., il.• ummen. is the source behind


march.nde d� b

LU;liAraiotik !ii[Altlvtilktldhfgi... n,••

preoemation is ckar both from considc�tion, of

roOlen! and from tlte f.ct thot he is tile only

authorit)" mentioned Ihere. ummm. i. ,e

pro\'cd for h"'ing been too ,ure about the deuils offin'r>ei.1 opc�.ions in Mecca. bUI hi.

ronclu,ion thot the opc�tiom in q u.:. ,ion we,c of consider.ble romplexi.y is ociXed (Watt. Jlu/Jo",,," al Jlma, I). J).

, Set: in panicul•• M. J. Kis'e', ·'.\I�"troy,,( by Ihe Persi.ns (lsmi'iI b. 'Umar Ibn Kllhir. al-Bid4ya ..-a·I �;h.iya, n. JOI, ci ti ng Ihe M"gMzI of Sa,d b, Yahii .1_Umawi; similorly 'AI; b

1:lu...yo al.,\I'! Clearly, something is amiss. Did the Meccans really trade in incen se , spices, and othL'T luxury goods? If not, could they ha\'e founded a commercial empire of intcmational dimensions on the basis of leather goods and clothing? The answer to both (I Uestio ns would appt:ar to be no, and it is for this reason that "-1eccan trade is a problem.

Why do Islamicists find it so easy to believe that the j\k'Ccans traded i n incense, spices, and the like? Presumably because Arabia is i nd eli bly as­ sociated with this kind of goods in the mind of every L'(lucated person. Besides, what other significant articles were available in Arabia for the Meccans


export? Because the classical spice trade of Arabia is so fa­

mous, practically e\'cry account of Meccan trade tends to he caSI in its image; or i n other words, f\leccan trade tend,� to be dC5cribcd on the ha­ sis of stercotypes. The stcrcotypes in q uestion may be summari7.ed as follows. Already in the third millennium R.C. the south Arabians traded in in­ cense, later also in foreign goods; indeed, the \'ery carliest commercial and cultural contacts between the

Mediterranean and the

lands around

" Donn�T. ··Mcc" Food 50ppl;",:' p. 2.\". Se.:. for example. H.A. K. Gibb. {;ll1m,

pp. '7, .6; B. ,\,,,.d, "Soci.I."d F.lngical Aspt.orungsrcligionen." pp.

, J j,


" H. "on Wissmann, f)j, M�=tkr S..b«rha"plSlllil Maryah. p.

" 'A nde nt



Le Baron flow"".

Trade R"ut�.. in Suulh Arabi.," p. H. A similar ,·iew seemS to he: impli�', "13'-l!"p'e .,·.it die dc. ",13Iioo! direct" o\'e'e ('A••bie m�,

",ant I':lge de� 1't"I�nlk1r; Miilk... •

Wribrau,h, rob. 701" f.

The first to orgue this "'OS Philhy, though hi, work ".•• not publi.hnl till long .fte.

his deOlh (11. St, John Philh)', TbtQIKm ,Shtha, eh, ,). The somerondmion ,,'I' rucl>ed hy A. K, I r.ine. "The ,\,.hs .nd Ethiopims," p. >OI

1>1"(:'·cnl the authors fron,

adducing the as proof of this a..umption (d. ,·an Hed and J.mme, "Clay Stamp

from UL'1hel " p. ,6). PoI.rog...phy is also in,·oked in favour of this dote, btu "01 corwinc_ . ingly (cf. lJoncschi. '·L'aotique inscription..·1'1'. t6, f.. and lhe follo"·;"g "Ole). ••

Cf. �. Glueck, ''The First Campaign at Tdl eI_Khd��fch," 1'. J6 (discm·cry ;nsi,� "f

• large brohn jar

inscribed with two leiters of a ""mh Arahi.n s.:firt, dated to ,he eigh,h

century B.C. on the basis of stratigraphy); G. R�·ckm.ns, ··Un fragment d� j.rr� .n·" ca_ ..cter�.. m;nL'cns de Tdl EI_Khdcyfeh" (d�te .ccep:ed, script idI. Glued, ·"Tell d_Khekifeh Inscriplions,"· Pl'. 1)6 f. (Ryd:man. repo..wJ





tripod that may have been found in Iraq only dates from the sixth to fourth ceoturies


and the same is true of mher finds suggesli\'c of

trade between south Arabia and Mesopotamia. In shon, the belief that the incense trade between south Arabia and the Fertile Crescent is ofim­ mense anti(Juity does not have much evidence in its fa\·our. By the seventh century B.C., however, the trade must have begun. 'J'his is elear partly from the Biblical n:curd and partly from the fact that both frankincense and myrrh werc known under their Semitic names e\'en in distant Grcece by about 600 8.C" when they arc attested in the poetry of Sappho.'" 'nlC archaoological evidcnce sets in about the sixth century B.C., as has been seen, and the trade becomes increasingly at­ tesu:d thereafter." The trade may thus be said to be of a venerable agc e\'en if it is not as old as civilisation itself.

How were the incense pnxlucts transported? It is a plausible contention that the earliest trade was by land. But le3\'ing aside the obvious point that maritime expeditions ro Punt on the pan of the ancient Egyptians do not testify to the existence of an overland route, as has in all serious­ ness been argued," the fact that the earliest trade was by land in no way ch.nge.:l the dOle to th� OI.:. I'. 4,6. z.,chari .. Rhe,or, ";"Ion" '39. In the HIX;! qf IIx I:.parrb. where myrrh ""J f..nkin�se .re Ea:106 and other S"·eI)· the Byzanlines h.d c"OITle to depcnd Of] ,\lu,lim middlemen by then. Englis h ",,,,Iatinn, and ocher ""arh in



copius, and the majority of Syriae ehurchmen.7' Sixth-cemury Corip pus thought of incense as Sabaean; Jacoh of Sarug (d. 521) found it ap­ propriate to wmpare the faith of the Yerneni Christians with the sweet smell of lhe spices, incense, and aromatics sent "from your region here to us"; and Jacob of Edessa (d. 708) identified Saba as the homeland of myrrh, frankincense. and other spices associated with Arabia in antiq­ uity.7) But such resonances of the past arc fairly rare in the texts, and to those devoid ofelassical learning. Arab traders conjured up the very op­ posite of pleasant smells. "Normally the lshmaclitcs only carry hides and naphtha," a third-century rabhi observed, surprised by the associ­ ation of lshmaclites and aromatics in Genesis 37:l5; it was hy way of exception that God let Joseph be saved by JX'oplc with sacks full of swcct-smelling things.;. Long before the rise of Mecca to commercial prominence, Arabian frankincense and related products had ceastxl to be flf economic consequence in the Gre. tht)" ""ere not known

by an Ind i an Gr..k 1_ is not deri"ed frolll Tami l uICtior Io*,i "il "","s;.n !iiwi"4 (a

f.l", et ymology adopted c�cn by Lidde lland Soou). for th� I'edy add""" I"".u.n, "'hichproh,bi's'ra,-d by Xl. .. h,k

5H; R. ��'nc Smilh,

sUJIly imported by Solomon.

admi'ling .h.. I"" lIrahnunsof Ihe oorth Iuhilu.ll,. in .his .nd Ulher n:pn·ncnsibk pnCIi«s.

IS It\-idcn«of early

Indi�n!lta In,k "'ilh lhe Wm ("Early 0>","",,,,." p. '69,

limibrlr M""..ii, ,II/ill,. Shippill{f, 1'1'. 41


1IU1 lhogh the


is pre.hriSliln. it

dots """ ""'>fil�' date from I"" SC-'Cflth ullIury •.c. • •nd .herr i. no indication lhe rcprdl.:mihlc on jorn�p ..-elll. The fir" �"idc,>tt of ron"

':' ..·;.h

tI", Wrll in II..,

Indi.n mdilion is .he 1J#1.YrtlJ6Id� (lxl".... nRj). d.ted by K.."edy 10 .hout 4'' II.C.; cr.

Ihe -'I,her disc.."ion in A . L. llash.",. '";-..'o.a; on Scof.ring in Ancien.

l"dil,"" I'P' (,0, ff. .

67 r.

" P.ul�·-Wis,,-,'·•. Nt�lt"ry..,.,11

))9). W. W.

T.m. Tbr Grrdr i" /Ul(lriIlll'"

()(hC1"'l. irs.,

TbrJ611ltll. III. Hj f.

Throphn51Us (d. •boul .85 •.c l. fragnm pl.m. arr p>nly from Indi•. k'fI' I'}'


b..... Pr. •00 f. :,\,,,,, .1", .h.1 K"C"Of"ding 10

so"Olteophnl'us. J:",,,iry "" 0 Plllltu.

IX. pl.

" "' .."r\t(" .hey Irr

.. Cf. •"" 0101)' of the: Chinex ambusador (.oo.�. nj6). When Tr'ian tame 10 Ch,n"

.", Ihr I'eNian Gulfin , , 6 A_D• • he "" "" . 'hip Igos (Ubulll).OO Omman.

(Suhlr? d. tb.wc. n5J) If 15 f.).

",'cl"(O in ..'S"l.r oo""....,rci�1 conl>CI wi,h noryg>?.> in n"rlhem 1",li. (1'/";pJ>4.


wel!." Solomon, who enrolled Phoenician help for his maritime cmcr­ priscs, may ha\"c found his gold in 'Asir,�1 bUl lhe vicw lhat his feets reaeht-d India is unconvincing.1I9 The first attestation of sailing beyond Bab al-Mandab comes from the sC\'cnth l.'cntury R.C., when Neko, thc Egyptian king. despatched a Phoenician fleet with orders to circumnav­ igatc Africa, which it claimed to ha\'c done, though Herodotus did not belicve ito'" Later, Darius displaycd considerable intcrest in the Red Sea mUle lO the Persian Gulf and hcyund.9' !lur the Pto1cmics ctmecmrated " See the su..·e�· in " As argu�..:l


Wrihra..h. cols. ;)9 ff.

H. "on Wissmann. "Ophir und I�awlla"; d. a[so G. I{yd'ans.

"Ophir," whe.. th. ,·..iou, p"'.ibiliti.,. arc di",uss.-d "'ith (u"her rc(erc"OCeS. .. There a

thr"" ",Ic"am We Ire told thl! the n.vy ofHir.", brooght gold,

'almugf'" t!"ts, '0(1 preciuus stooe; to Sol"mon from Ophir (I Kings ''':1 'I, tlut Solo­ mon h.d . n."�· ofT.rshi!h together "'ith Hiram. which brought in gold. sil'·eT. imry,

apes, and pe.oxh every thr"" years (l Kings


'I. and th.t Solomon's .hif>" went to

Tarshish together with Hiram', ",-",'.n", Dringing luck gold. ,ii,,,,,. i''Ory. apes. ond pe'

"",ks (II Chronid", 9:8). I'ropon.nts of the "iew th.t Solomon Indi. tre.t tm, Ophir .OO Tarshish t1ee�s as idet1tical, .dducoe the Sq>tu.gint, which s0l'hir .. 7.0-

ph..a (th.t is. Supan in Indi.). and explain �he Ilemew words for ape, in,r) . •n,1 pcacock

" I.,.nwords from Sanskrit .nd Hut the 1\t Of Ptolemaic coins in India there are few or nonc, but by the first century A.D. both coins and literary evidencc show the maritime trade between India and the Greco-Roman world 10 ha\·c ac­ quired major importanee.9s What, then, is the evidencefor contacts between Arabia and India be­ fore this date? The Indian tradition has nothing to say on the SUbjl'Ct.'i With regard to the possibility of Arabs sailing to India, the claim that the Sabaeans had founded colonies in India before or by the Hellenistic period rests on a misunderstanding of Agatharchides.'>7 It may well be '" It ,,·as aOOut who h.d

110 H.C.

thot Eudoxus of Cyzicus ""'SIOO to Indio. guid.,,) by .n I n dian

bt picked up wildly off course i n It. Red Sea., lhe so l e suo·;,·or of his crew

(Puseidooius in Straw. �rapby. II. 3'''). The m".y implies thOl rtOy hod sailoo from

EgYI'I IO India. or thc other way round, t.cfUfc, h is true th.1 In Indian is s.aid 10 ha,·c

gi"m tl>lnks for. ",fe fournq in Pan·s temple .t F.dfu in Ihe Ihird or second cemury B.C.:

bill the ..lIte of It.e inscriplion is uncrnain . a n d the m.n m"y nol h,ve bo:On Indus i s an emmdnion of an other,,·i .., meaning less word (ran., Gr-t!t;� Ha(

INa, p. no; H. Koncnbc:Uld, Dtr IgypliKbt SiiJ "",1 Os/bantUl i� tkr PQJJJi tkT I'lol,"'Mr f.j. "nJ romisrhm "aUlr, pp •,

Cf. l'rUJ,

o: amrc of Indiln piracy in Ihis arca was Sy "'r.I'·an (d. below, ch. -I "7), ,., B.i:lroyn ,,'0' rIIled by a marzuNn " ho re,ided at H.jJ< .nd by Mundnir b. Siw,;: (or

Siwn, .n Aub diem king ofT'''''m (though he i, SOI,,,,ti,,,,," dcsI. hye. "lbhnin under the" O",a", tOO, wa, TIlk..J b�"

l'cr.i.n go,-cmor in rollal.>ontiu" ,,-j,h .n /\Tab diem king,

JII13ndi h . •1 ,\lustakbir (flUjllcntly "Ius""ir) .I·"uli .nd his ocsccoo,ms, ond tile I'�.

si.n, used Oman.s 0 place of exile(Wilkimon. "Ar.b I"'.sian Land RelOIionshif"l," p. 4';

d. olso A. Ahll F.z�h, MThe l'oliti"ol Sit".tiOfl in F.a.tem ,\r.hi. ot the ..\dl"ent ofIshm," 1'1" H ff.; CoskcL, Camhara, II, u·_ 6"land';: h . •1·MllsU�iT 11K]). In the " " '»tn . PL"I"si.n IF" 'crnor ruktl in roll.bont;'m with . I:lin,)"ari POWI king,

Soyf b. Dhl YOI."n, who h.d bttn enthroned on Ihe COIl'lu""t. The go"emor ••ri,·ed with

some , .!io ir"''''·..n ()man. Ihbrarn, .Ixl the",a on II", OIlOI frankinee",e. hut storu (Miiller. " Notes on the Use." P, 116;Jocob. lkdu;n.."llbrn. p. '5), ' foreign product imported by the M.hs e"�n in the days of Pliny (},'alwroillis.tory, XII, 8,), 1 0. Azraqi,'\la'ua,pp. 105 f.: Ibn 1'lish1In. f�btn,l" 430. , Wlqidi. Mggbd>.f, III. 971 (!ih, gold and si l,·.,. ...ere dep""ited in the u"e o fA llit. the

J. H. Mordtm,nn and I). H. ,\Iuller. Sab5is(bt Drni:mliltr. I" 82. is

Thaqall idol). , It i. one of the four things ...hich

A�ma'i is said to h

bc:lic,-cd c.clusi,·e '" south

'\nlbia (Allu l.lanifa al·Dina...r•• T� Book 6 fL; Rodinson, 's/a",

rl capit�lis"" ,

pp_ �. ,60; Donner.

",\ko:a', Food Supplies." p. 'H; B. Spulcr. ",,'jew uf Milller. WtibronKb. p. JJ9 (lam

grateful to Dr. F. W. Zirn"",rmann for dnlwing my attention to this .,view). :-JOlt also how Birkeland .dduces Str:lbo and Pliny in elocid.tion oflhe Mecca" trade suppostdly rcftccu:d in the Qur'ln (11. Birkeland, T�LordGuwub: 51ru1id ... Prim;,;"'y 'flam, p. " Cf. Pmp'"" §§7 f.

" 'J.

10. '...

" When Tenulli.n (d. about '40) " Y' 'hal the Chrilli.ns uSC � Sabottan "",h.n·

disc in burying 'h�-ir "rw .Iso me-�ns

,.ge. d. Lewi"./«. NI.)

'J S� below, "0. '0. Grohm SiiJIlrtJ, I. , 'S. ,\crording 10 tile W6rltrbucb. I.V. �am�tim, it , ; the re,;n of the le�bi",h, lhat is. P. Imbinlm.s, the Ivrpent;ne tn:e thot has

.Iso bem pro�

in idelltifiolio" oflile Heb�' balm: hut here for 0I the W';rttrburh

mU�1 be wrong. II is true th.1 P. mtl,ilflm.s i, said to grow in south A",bi. and to yield a

resi" ,imilarto f Now pace Miller, both C. schomantbus (and/or ojivm) i and other species of CYII bopog(Jn arc common in thc Middle East,"'" and C. !chotnanlhus still grows ,. Di"n2w.ri. Diuitm",,;rr,


9i7. where f.idbjn is idlinJ', NMllmuHUlory, XXXIII, 1 16; PtripJlH. f JO; Dinawarl in Grohmann, SUJ.rditrl. I. J '0. In India. ,,'C ore oold. drag8 which was used by

the Monophy�ites as an ingredient in their Myron until the thirteenth eenhlry

and which was also apprcciated by Muslims on feslil'c oc­


casions; occasionally, it cvcn passed into the hands of Christians in the " Gtn�is 37;lj; 4;: I I . Jcrcmi.h ij;ll; �f,

illw Ezt:kiel 17:17, ; PlillY, Nailirul Hislory, xu, " '; Scrobo, Gtcgrapby, ltV" l' 4 ' :Josephus,JtwUbA�/iqllj/its, lX, 7; Xlv. 54; xv, 9/>; ;d., TIN}"'isb War. I. 'J�; I\". 41>9; .. Thcophraslus, Pla�lI, IX, 6;


Diodorus Siculus, Biblio,Ma. II. 411: ti.n, accurding 10 Jiil)i� (T;·

fora, p )' =1 ' ), d. p.


f'5) and se"cral aUlllurs ciled by llirini (Mul)ammad b. ,\1).

m.d al Uinllli. aJ,8inm;', Rook 01 Pborm.ckid 17:J7). Ir ;1 usually iden,ifitJ as lhe

produet of&Ionill$,ug)-ptilxa (L.) Ddilt, an ""'crg=n shruh, or PUIIXia Imlim.., Ihc m..

lie ,re, or /'iil,w" IrnhintM4, Ihe turpentine !rcc (,\\oldenkc Ind Mold""kc, 1'14"

Bibll, pp.


n, 84, ''; f.; Hepper in Groom, Fr""linww, p. '49 nlO; for pictures of the

pllnu proposed, Ott Walker, Alltbe P""'tr, pp. '9, " 9, " ,). \lur rhere I'" also so"", who take rhe Rihlie.1 passages 10 refcrto I nridy ofproduc!!.



problematic, They certainly cannot have been identical, The sources arc agreed that Judcan balsam only grew in Judea, later also in Syria and Egypt, and that it only existed in a eultivatt.-d statC,H The cultivated plant was smaller than the Arabian and Somali tr(.'Cs; it ne"re"). . Comp>r� Pli llY, Xatura/Hmory, XII, " 2 tT (refuling Thephl"rophuSlus, P/oms, IX, 6: J' 10 Pliny 2eidil�· "'·as 2 sigll of adullcntioll_ " Plin)" Natural History. XII, , , 6 ff.; d. 'i\txl al La!if, Kry, pp. 4'. 44 - 4),.n (on Judean .nd qyp,i.n balsam), Sch"eillfurt in Uow, FlortldrrJudm" , )00 (on the Mabian Ir..), Groom. Fr""nnctnu, p. " 7. " Groom, FrQn�in«1l«, p. "i. ,. Hi.';ni discu,.,ro hlJlllIi wilhoUl referring 10 bosh.>m al all, wherea' -Abtl .1-I...;Ilif .1_

B.ghoJidi, who desaitnl the />alillJIJ of Et!Y1X .m 'he I,.,is of \>CI"SOfl.l nh';':rin'''''i, MoncgraphS«tioN, no. 8 , , ; Azr'qi,J/".U... p. JH;cf. [)ilUwari, MDtWgNph

S«limr. no. liB " 'AlxIal-Lati(, Kry, p,


+$ .

.. Groom, F'''N�jTJft1/Jt, pp. r,6

" Cf. MiillC'!". \\'

f. r J"; d. Jacob. Ordui_I,,,, p. r 5,

..b. col. 7'7;

Miler, Spice hark, p.

10': A.H.M.

Jo""", "Asiar>

Tr:ade in Antiquiry.n p. 4. GI"IXI. who rightly nOl:e, that tk Arab, of .ntiquiry ntay nor ha"c reg.rded /MIbtlm IS ",orthupl-oiling, nonetheleJI suggesrs thor some /MIN'" resin m.�·

h.,·c b«n c�portu"); Grohm.nn. Siidm-alJoin" r, '56; d. Ja�"h. 8"1"i_I.".,,, 1" '5·

.. l !w, Flom ikrjlldm, I.

300 (nn the toste); Sigismund, tiro",..,,,, p. '7 (u" the smell),

ef. .Iso Grom. f·radifl«tfSt. p. " 7 (when b urn r, ir is said tu !mcll likc hurning ir>enjomin, a Far Eastern product, floes not soh-e the probl�m. os mosl bdellium was clearly


product nali,·" to Iran ond northwest

India.) ,., :-':or from EUI Africa, where sI�. 1'1'. 8, f.J: but if the}· romribut�-d '" the oman market, tm,y did S() under Ihe no",,, of myrrh

(d. Groom, Fra�*i�""u, 1'1'.

" J f.l.

,,, Dioscoridcs, ,lIartriaMrdi61, 308 f.); Ibn al..\iujllwir, Descriptio, I, 54' Mu·oor. Alurilj. I. 6, (where it figures among the len trt producing froit with pi!s ["""1 ,,-hiel> Ad,m brotlghl witb

him from Paradise). D' identifying "'Jifl ",d..ti a. the resin of dir;J.·"', Mecca lxing 'upposedly the Ofle place where a resin could be obt.ined frum thi, ral'" trt."" (I.ow. FlortibTjuJm, I, 3 ..; d. the furthct" oonfusion ibi4., p. lOS).

SPICES or ARABY attackers.' ' J For all we know, they may also have used the leaves of this

tr(."C for thc manufacture of mats, spears, and camel sacks '" 8U1 that still icaves the question of what the camel sacks (Ontained. 13.


Classical authors knew of two spices which resemhled each other and which were known as amomu/n and

cardamomum; of these two, cardnmo­

mum was to be found in Arabia . " ! n,e spices in qucstion have been identified as different forms of cardamom. ·rhus amo/num is supposed to have heen the product of Amomum subulalum Roxh., Zingiberaceae, which yields the so-Othing 10..10 with Sttd capsules

(d. M(llm.. MrJ�(l. t. '5" 4: p.le red or pale grt.m. soft to ,ouch .tld full of "eins in Ih" wood). ,�

Pliny, NII/llrd/His/MY. 1m. $U.

.., l"heophrUlUS. "!;mlf. 1�.

7' J; as dlt �-ditor poinl$ OUt. the te�t 7'

would sem �o J.



been, it was clearly a product native to the i'\ear East that did not be­ come sufficiently well known in the classical world for us to identify it,

INDUN SPICES Contrary to what i� usually imagined, the number of Indian spices as­ sociated with Arabia in the dassicaI sources is not large. It has been in­ flated in the secondary lilt:raturc by the misidentification of cinnamon, cassia, calamus, and swt."Ct rush as Indian imports. The number reduces to four: nard, costum, aloe-wood, and ginger. The testimonia linking the first thrt.-e with Arabia are few, their eastern origins being pcrfcrdy well known; and as for ginger, it would Sf.""Cm


have grown in Arabia,

though the classical world cannot have importf. most of its supplies from there. NOt one of these spices is associated with Meccan trade. There is, howevef, one source v,'hich claims that Quraysh ust.'{) to trade, among othef things, in pepper, though pepper was never associated with Arabia in antiquity. 15.


Nard or spikenard (Sanskrit nalada, Hebrew lIerd, Syriae nardill, Greek lIardos, Arabic sunbul hindi) is a perennial plant indigenous to the j'lima­ layan region that is now labelled NardOIlacbys jalamami D.C. ( Va/(­ rianajatamanliJones), Valcrianaceae. ,', Its rhizomes arc covered in hair or spikes resembling the cars ofcorn (slakbyl, spica), whence its name nar­ doslakbys or spica nardi, spikenard. The rhizomes contain an essential oil =

rhat was used in the manufacture of ointments and perfumes in antiq­ uity. The Indians and the Muslims also ascribed medicinal properties toir.'" Nard is first attested in the westem world in the S(mg ofSongs.". Hy corrupt here. I')io)", NUluf'tll lfisrory, XII, '15; MiIl.-r. Spiff Tralk. PI'. j"� If. . where the mdiT of Dioso;orides and o,her, is .hrown i" 10 pl.�· lite role of m�cc ' " Uplwf, Di(lionQry. t.v. :'>I.nlo,uch�·. jat'",.nsi: ;\lill(1", Spie, "{"Talk. PI' H8 fr. .. , ,\Iiller. Spirt Tratk, p. '1'; G. W.U. "f"bot C"",m."';"I I'rodurlHI{InJitl, p. 7',1 ; KhwJ­ Ti/.mi, Majillq,. 1' ,6q (where the rooc of I"di." I�nnl is lis",d ., • rnedicirlC under 'he nom" of JAr·;shu/JQgb6n. dscwl>cre .ssumed tu be 'he of""",[Il/bot. cr LOw. I'j/luslims were later ro identify as sunhul

'arabi, "Arabian nard," in contradistinction to the gen­

uine commodity, sunhul hindf.,·a ·rhere is no indication that Arabia ever played any role in the nard trade other than that of prol'iding anchorage for India ships.' , q Arabic sunhul is a nanslation of Gn."ek stakby!, presum­

ably via Syriac, Arabic nardin being a straight transliteration of Syriac; and what the Muslims hal·e to say about the plant SL'Cms to be derived from Dioscorides. 'J" ,ri.

Costurn or cootu s (Sanskrit

quS!, kw!, qasht, kwhl,



Aramaic qwhtJ, Greek /ros/os, Arabic

etc.) is a perennial herb, SaufSurta


G. P.

Clarke. Compositae, which grows ill Kashmir and which has been used as a source of incense, perfume, and medic ine in China. the classical

world, and elsewhere. 'J' It is first anested in Greek literature in Thea­ phrastus. Pliny was well aware that it was an Indian planl, and accord-

mcs!cd in Akkadian lardu. This wa, proposed by E. Ebn h.u nO( ""n by lhe Asryrimt Dn:tmury. .., Pliny, N"'uralll;s,ory. xu, +5: lJioscoridcs. Ma'""" ,\Itdia. '. 716: oo.:h I",, of mile, kinds of "a,d. too. I'triplus, §t39. +8 f 56, 6J . ... Cosmas, ToptJgraph�. XI. ' 5 . For Ilyzantin-e irnpon. of nard in the tenth«ntu,)', se alxwe. eh. I "7'. "7 A lTian, AII0.' : Straoo, ("� xv, , : II: cf. i/rid XV!. 4: 'S . ••, .\Iiller. Spia, p. 90, ,,·illl rderwet toCcdro,ian nard; .romatic spccics ofCym. bopcgo� were .1.. common in Arobi. (d. •oo,·t. Aubi." spices, uo. 5). Grohmann. Si/da· ..bierl.t. '59· ""I'll10 .ilk

i. mentioned in lialidhun �. ,'crsion of

but ,hen hi. "",..ion is brief (AlIIab. I, '5.


100 f.).




The I:ommooitics with which the sources associalC ,\1I,."i:can frade share

rhe feature that all arc of Arabian origin. Three of those explicitly said to have been exported-silver, gold, perfume-were expensive and

would help 10 expl ain rhe rise ofMecca if thc export was large-scale. Rut

this it was not. In fact. the M(.'Ccans cannm be said to have exported siJ­

\'cr or gold 31 all. The commodity they did cxpon on a large scale, if thc tradition 1;1.'1 in Ilon Hi_

.hlm, u/lt1l, p, Hi; simitarly the Other f"tn,ioo'). \\'i'I;ro[.hct. scc [bn al·AIIIl,. Urn. ", .U', H8 f.: Ibn l:bj..,I¢INz, V II. 56, 191, no•. 3'4. 1014, r,�"l'. •l.�lawl'" and ,\tulayh "'ilid" .1_SiI'ib b. •1_A,.ro, On AbU. Talib, [bn Kusta, jl'kJq. 1'. 115: [h" Qur'yt",. ,\I,, · 4,.;f. p_ '+9. " On ',\mr b. al 'A,. �tul)alllmad b. Yiisu! al t.:indi. Tht CAt",.".". andJudgrofEgyps. pp. 6 f. On 1:lok.m b. Abll-'Ali. :lghJ�f, XVII, p, 369. The parallel "crsion in F. Schul­ th�.., 00. and tr., Dtr l)f,,:�n t1t1 ilrahiJrhtn Imblm �/dl;m f1, P, '9 .. 48 f. (suJ flO. X1.\,tIt), does not mention ,,·hat h� intended to sell a, l Iira: but in bolh ,·er fioos he is ,.id to ,,",·c had rib with him with ,,-hich he raJYilINz hi, hosts after the Il"'" he r�'Cci""d on thc w.y. Thi, wa, p,",sunubly incen", r3lher th.n pt'rfumc, hut "' all Cn"nt• • fini,hOO product onc�, On ·Urn.r·.wife. T.b.ri, Ta·rlib .• er. I . p. '.@J3. •, ,'tiller. Spirt Tradt. PI'. '99 f " \Va!)idi, Asbdb, p. lOS (suJ , j:87): Mut,lalnmad b. A(""ad .1·(Jur,ubl, al-jiimi' 1;·a�It';m �1"iur'Jn. x. 56 (both forst .dduCo"low. eh. J. PI" ,,8 f .

" Acoordi,,!: to rheAgbJni. XXlV, 6,. lhee Persi.ns.",;" ..port�-d perfume 10,he Y�"""n, Kisri scm. ora,'an (ooded, am"ng Olher 'hings. ,,'ilh 'ilr to IUdh!m, his J:lO"�"-nor uf the Ycrncn. But Ihis is !imply un.: out uf numerouS "..ions uf tht same '1OIy, Ihe Ki.ri in q"",tion bt:ing now Amishi""'ln .nd OOw P

. •nd

thee cua,'an going oow to th�


pp. 07 ff. (though it omit< mention of the

M«c." S,ws). The tradition is di.cussed h}' I:bmldolllh, ".bpports"; Sin... "Hums el iUr'; and Kister, ",\\""0 .nd",:· , This point is .Iso ;o lhe p.� gi"en by Tha'�lihi. ]o;",r. p. " 5.

, Q�lis ,'ersion h•• I,*"j ", ililyhim for tahmi'" {"hum. The tribes","n in question "'ould

ree"i"e both Iheir Ta', mal and their n#, tha! i., what thcy had i""cstffl and what they

had ga;nw, .he reward

ofQuroysh consisting cxcll1,i"dy ;n saf� pas"S�. ;1 would s"'-,".

Ver.ions such as Tha'llibi., hO"'c"cr, mak., i! dc�r Ih..! they look Iheir CUI ofIhe �,

!oo (Thim,Jr. p. 116).



(qurd) of Syria; it was on this journey that he died in Gaza.


three brothers concludL-d similar trcalies with the rulers of Persia, the Yemen, and Ethiopia, "'nabling Quraysh to trade in safety, and similar agreements with the rribcs on the way, enabling them to travel to the countries in (Iuestion without fear. All died in places implicitly pre­ scnled as relevant to their trade. It was rhanks to the aeti\-ities of Hash and his brothers that the �Ieccans got rich. This is an impressive account, and it is not surprising rhat modern scholars arc inclined to accept it more or less at face \ alue. But there is a

snag. A numher of traditionists, including Ihn al Kalbr's own father, of­ fer an account to precisely the opposite dfee!. �kcluw. ch, 9, .. Thus for ,u"'l'k Ibn So'd. '(;,boljJt, I, " 9 f. . 151). Fo• • •un·cy ofthc tr.ditions on ,\lult'11mad', "isi" It> Syria. so.'C belo"', ch. �. " Cf. bcolow, [f wc discnum the "i,its mode hy Hhhimite> as gu..di.ns of ,\lu]:l�mn",d, the;r a'suei"ion ",-ith Syri. pnclically disapl"'.... " Ibn I:bhib, Munllmm",!, p. 171: cr. Ihn K.,hir, BiJJya, II, , 'I (, " He wem to Syri. clrrying tnOIley P.,1IY o...ned h)' him and p"rti,' cm'uSled t(> hiuI, being ime.ce-pled by t� Muslims on the wa�' (d, .Ix»·." ch, � n , 3). He returned fromSyria with a car..'an ca rrying sil-"cr, l>cing intcrccptc-d by the ,\luilims on the w.y It 'I� in ycar 6 (ol",,·c. eh_ 4, n, J), He "'cnt to Sy.ia with un'pttif,w good• •nd was inte. c,-,!>led on his ""'J' b.d by \ , luslirn. o!",nting Of! the wast during t� Irmistice hetw.,. J\k.:ca .nd ,\k-dina, th.t is I>4). But WI· 'lid. would only admit Gn. (d. tx,low, nH), .nd Ihe .bscnc� ofJ...usakm fmHl lite 'n' di,ioru; on �to=.n Ind. is s.riking. " In a ,'arian. ,·e,.,ion of Ihe story n:krred 10 in ,lte prttCding note, Abii Sufy.n .nd limo)'ya b. Abn �ah go On a tr.ding jour",,)" to Syria, "hich tak� ,ho::m.1l ,t. way 10 tho: Ghaw," of Damasem. where tlxy 'Ia)' for .wo munlh. (Ibn K.,hir, HiJ4ya, II, '10 fr., citing Ibn 'A.aki" Ibn ',\,akir , Tahdbib, UJ, • '5 fO. It ""0$ in .he Hall'mn thOl a Qllrashi lI'ader encollnl... a lion .�..,o ,n some (allO'·c. n17). and ;1 is implied 'h" "txt al Ra�min h. Ahi lIab's , .ook bim 10 Damascus (,tghoi>r;, X'·U. Jj\l f.). W alid h. al ,\Ioghin is said to h"'e o"'ed moncy 10 . hi.hop of D.m.scus by tlte name of ,\!uqa"'qis (sic), hOI else...hcrc he O"'CS il lOthe bi'hop of :-uray,h; con'pare .Iso \\'.U, 'uuiHlmmllli, I'ropbtllJud SIIJ/(J"",�, p. I). ,. They traded in W",

P.lestinc .nd Jordon, acwrding '0 .\iuqltil, Taf" r, fol. 'f3'; .nd il

.Iso in Jord.n that Um.yya 'pent his e�ile, .ccording to Ahil'I-B.qi' (.oo,·e, ch. -+

n70), Wiqidi, on the other h.nd, is explicit th.t th()( go be)'ond Gau (Maghd"I, I, " Guidi, Clmm;(a .ifi""TI, p. p6



or at

ieUt li"M: member. uf ':\b.!


" Ibn Sa'd, 7ilhaqJI, I, i5.

" They are sometime, said to h.n t..detI i n Rum (d. the refcrcncn gi"en .bo,'c, eh.

nto; .ho\,e, n,o; below, n71), .nd I...mmens tokes Rum 10 mcon Anatoli. ("Republique," p. ,6.00 the,ofthe rdercJ\'-'o:Iow, n7')_ On, presumahly it ,im_ ply ",e.n. the /:IF..ntin. r.npire in general. COl\oo,'ably, Hlshim', �'OI'lnCCl'ions "'ith \n_ k,ra an,. from the fact that members of thc ATOb tribe of Iyld "'cre helie"ed to ha,·c ":1 lied there (Ag!xJ,rf, XXlt, 358).

J' Kind;, '_'", PI'. 6 f.

,. C( al.-.-,,·o, 0>1 . .. A�,".d b. Y.�y} .1-1l.I}dhuri, rlIlI4b a/·"",brij, (01. [)r. G. M. Hind,).



J. 3 I (I owelhi, reference to


Egypt.6' And Egypt replaces the Yemen in one version of the ildf-tradi tion on l lashilll and his brothers."' Gi\'en that 'Amr's visit to Alexan· dria is afXlCryphal . we ha\'e no information on where they went. One would expeet them to have visited Sinai. a curiously familiar placc in the Qur·an.6J as well as the eastern desert: bm how much further they went is an open qut:stion. ­

T"E Y[MEN The Yemcn is gener ally described as the sccondmost i mportan t maljar, place of trade, of the ,\·k-ceans. Thus the two journeys mentiom.xI in Sural QuraY$b are commonly idemifil"(j as journeys to Syria and the Yemen,60 though the Yemcn is sometimes omittlxl in favour of two jour­ neys to Syria or one to Egypt or 10 Ethiopia. 6' Individual Qurashis men· tioned as ha\';ng trading relations with the Yemen include J·lashimites such as 'Abd al.,\lunalib (whose journeys arc not, howe\'er, explicitly identified as trading journeys), M 'Abbas b. Fakih b. al .�·lughira,7' J-lisham b. al-Mughira and his

sons,l' as well as 'Alxlaliah h. Abi'I-Rahi'a7! and 'Umara b. al_Walid.l.

Makh7.umis are also associated with the Yemen, as well as Erhiopia, in other ways.7! Da/a';! a!-nubuwwa stories in which Abu Sufyan visits the Yemen can presumably be

rejtlr, 1', '49; Hoonni. Sril{"TJ"6, p, 4')' 011 Mu.lim $CooI ars i""lTiably idemify Ihel" os coming

from a PO" in

llil)rayn (Ihkri

p, �8;

Yl'l0t. H�lda". 111. p, 61) . ..",h I, tI. • ,\dawll), an ideOlihc,nionIh1l "'ould Ottm 10 go bold

to A�m"J (thus the .""holia" in KUlha)yir 'A7.1-". fHt;h, II. ,)8), In ,'iew of thc ,,'hcre­ abouts of Tarafa, one of.he earlicst



likely to be ri\!"hl.

men(ioo lhe$(: .hips. ,his idenlifica.ion is

••• G. Lommens, 1:,trtJlNO«idm,,ut, p, '5; similarly Simon.


'"\:Ium. '"il:lf:' PJ>, "J f.

ARA81A WITHOUT SPICES l\iL"Ca then� is, in fact, some rL� ollection. Thus one story about the origins of Qu�ayy's fortune is that he killed and plundered an Ethiopian noble ('o?im) who had come to Mecca for trade.


One version of the

story of how I\\cccan trade came to an end has it that Ethiopians would bring foodstuffs to J�.:dda (ric) so that the Meccans no looger had to make theiT tiresome journeys to Syria. 'vI And the Makhzumi quarter in "-·Iceca is said to havc had a dar of-'ufa) at which Ethiopians were to be found. ' ''4 Residues of Abraha's army arc also supposed to hal'e stayed behind in lvh."Cla. working as craftsmen and shepherds. 'OJ Some, though not all, of these stories could be taken to refket the presence in Mecca of Ethiopian frl-crlmen rather than free traders; a.nd the lTadition is at all el'ents ada­ mant that the "-k-ccans visitL.J Ethiopia itself, where they had dealings with its ruler. The suggestion thaI Ethiopian traders would visit ML"Cca thus docs not dispose of the problem. Another possibility would be that ,\kcean trade with Ethiopia was not a [fade with Ethiopia at all, but rather one with the Yemen under Ethiopian rule. It is the same dan, Makh'zllm, which is a.�sociated with trade in both Ethiopia and the Yemen; and given the dearth of infor­ mation on the Ethiopia trade, it is odd that some sources should present Mt-ocean trade as one with Syria and Ethiopia,


Syria, Egypl, and

Ethiopia, to rhe cxdu�ion of the Yemen; if /;JObasba here meant Abyssin­ ians who happened to be in the Yemen rather than Abyssinia itself, the

claim would be less odd.''' But though one SOurce duly identifies the ruler from whom Quraysh oblainl-d permission to trade in the Yemen as an l\byssinian, '''7 rhe tradition docs not go so far as 10 conilatc this ruler, or other rulers of the Yemen, with the Negus himself. Moreover, it in'.' 11m I:hbib. Mu""mmaq. p. ,8. The .Itern.ti,·" storr is th.t he inheritnl lhe forlIIne of. foreigner who h.d come to ,\Ieeea for the sole of le.ther (.b",·", eh. of nj ,). !'uning lhe two together, Ile might rondllde thot it w•• the Eth;"'';.ns who sold skin. in .\leec. r:tther th.n the ,\IKe''', who olt! s them in Ethiopi•. • gol namplc of 'he sh.l'dcssn....s of(HJr e,·it1eott. '.J AI)(,.e. no I. ... Kister. "Some Report'!." p. 7 J. citing nkihl. .., A,.r:t'li, MaHa, p. 97 . .... Cf. aool'e, on61. 6j. The traditions identifying th� j...." ""ys ',going to Syri•. f.thin­ pi•• QIfJ the Yem"n rould bo "'.,\ io the sam" "�in (Ibn S.d. Tabaqdl. " 15: d. Th.·ili1 l.

Thimdr, p. , '5),

,., Ki5lcr. "Some Rcpom." p. 6,. citing N;htiY'" a/·;rtlh (,\br.ha). In this ,'cTsion H�.him Ilimsclf concludes .tt four .grremem•. , ,6

WHERE WERE THE MECCANS ACTIVE? sisl.� Ihat Qurashls would cross thc sea to get to Ethiopia. This solution is thus also umatisfactory. A third possibility is that Quraysh would trade with Ethiopia as Tes­ idents in the Yemen rather than as citizens of J\k"Cca. Insofar as they went to Ethiopia, thcy must havc done so via the Yemen, The Muhaji­ run arc admim.-dly said to ha\'e sailed there directly from Shu'ayba; but they did so in ships, clearly foreign, that mcrely happenl-d to put in there, ,08 and it was to the Yemen that 'lkrima b. Abl Jahl fled after thc conquest of r\kcca wilh the intention, according 10 Tabari, of crossing to Ethiopia. "XI It was also via thc Yelllcn that thc above-mentioned trad­ ers in Ethiopia returncd. "0 According to Wiiqidi. 'lkrima embarked somewhere on the coast of TiMma (rather than at Aden),'"

and this

agrees well enough with the information on where the I\keeans tradl-d in the Yemen. All this and the fact that the same Makhzl1m are associ. aled with Yemeni and Ethiopian trade could be taken to mean that Mee­ can residcnts in the Ycmen participated in the local trade with Ethiopia, selling local rather than Meccan goods in Ethiopia and distributing Ethi· opian b'OlXls locally rather than at the "-'Icccan markets. The tradition does, of course, insist that it was Meccan Tather than Yemeni leather goods that the Negus esteemed so highly, and generally thinks of the Ethiopia trade as conducted from Mecca itself; but this could be ex­ plained away, and we certainly never see Qurashis distributing Ethio­ pian goods at markets such as 'Uk.i+.

' "

If Qurashi tradc with Ethiopia

was conducted by a diaspora in the Yemen, it would be less odd that Ihe rradition remembers nothing about it except the fact that it existed. Against this explanation must he set the fact that some aCl.'Ounts pres· ent the Ethiopia trade as an extension of Meccan links with Hyzantine Syria rather than with the Yemen. Thus onc \'Crsion of the 14 i ftradition has it that it was the Byzantine emperor who obrainl.-d permission for ,00

cr. abo'·e, ell. , n.o. Tamri. ·,,,',.,u. SCT. • • p. I.�O. citing Ibn lsl)�'l. Ibn I lisllJm, 1.�/v1t, p. 819. m,.,.ly sap that he went to the Yemen. According to W�'liul. MagMoi. II. 85'. Ile embarked >Ome"·herc on the co" ofTihima; Wi'lidi ,).,.,5 "'" say th2t his uesti".,ion was [thiopia, but this can presumably be taken for granted. n. cr. abo'·e, n70. Cf. .oo-.·c. nlOy. '" Syrian, I':gyplian. and Iraqi goods weTc sold .t ooc of the greatest fairH,·cr held at 'UU�, btH apparend), not Ethiopian oncs (,\-lanil'li, AVIl;.., II. 168). Of the cara,an re­ turning from &hiopia and/or tn.: Yemen we a rc mo:rely tok! tllat it carried the belongings ofaJadhJmJ who had died in the Yemen (Ibn lJabJb. M�"""'''' �t. I, 75, simil. .ly cites K.lbl �s saying thaI Hishim Ilq�OIiated the tH'''Y beN'",Il Qu ray�h .nJI I·k..cli1ls (.1, 14')! Chronologie.II)". the lndilion is completely .1 se2. •

". Cr. .bon·.


.,. Some of .he e"idcn�e O1uld �I-J)�r. u se

• • where he houSht I'L'f�i.n w>ries

(hoWe"'" thot ;s \0 1)( Cn,',l'IgW); ). ..""ld idl tht.-sc. storin 10 QUTlph I.nck in Mecca,

saring .hOl ,,'hera• ."ul).mmad told th.. 0('Ad and Th.moo. he could tclllhcm .I>OUI Ru�'um.


..r.nd')·lr, ,00


�rs'.n cmf"'ron (\\'tl);di,


10 poJIublt I). c�i�ma of. Qunshl lndc ";Ih

p. '59).

tJnc, WOtlld

I�rna un lhe bu;s oflh.s.

.., Ibn I;hbib, M�, pp. )6.4 f; Mon.Oqi, "...;..... II, ,6,. both fro", Ibn at_Kalhl. "�I


AlJe.,.-c. n ,10. This ronlr:odiction was fine noted by S;tTIOI'I. "1;lunu et nlf'. p.


"''''''-e, n'17. Ie il ,\\a,.fu.jI ",ho a"r,bUI" ;n",obh(l,,), 10 lhem on 1!""lndS of their

ronntttion with the sanctuary,



allies of Muqar on his way to Irall, or, in other words, he made ad hoc arrangements for his safety on the way in e(IUal ignorance of Qurashi iftlJs and Qurashi in�·iolability among the tribes in question. ,,0 Further, we arc told that when Quraysh took the route through the territory of Rabra, they would Ix escortl-d by the sons of 'Amr b. Marthad, the chief of Qays h. Tha'lalla, from Bah b. Wl'il, thereby obtaining safe passage. 'J' This is perhaps compatible with the existence of jljjfagree­ ments (though hardly with inviolability). But Abu Sufyan and Safwan b. Uma)'ya seem to have been ignorant of this arrangement, givcn that they werc at a loss at what w do wnen Mu/:lammad forced them to take their caravan to Syria via the rOute to Iraq; and when a solution to their problem was propoSl-d in the form of a guide from Bakr b. \Va'il, who presumably served as their guarantor of safety as well, the guide in llues­ tiun was not a son of 'Amr b. Marthad, but an unknown man by the name of Furat b. 1;layyan. 'J' The tradition thus asserts both that the Meccans had «:gular com­ mercial relations with I;lira and that the), did not. Presumably then they did not. For one thing, the tradition is more likely to ha\·e credited the i\"leccans with a ficritious matjar than to have denil'(l them an historical onc. For another , rhe assumption that they did not have regular com­ mercial relations with this area seems to be the prevailing one. The Qar­ ada story presupposes rhal Qura),sh did not trade in Iraq; Abu Sufyan explicitly says as much as leader of the Qurashi-Thaqafi caravan; and J.lakam b. Abi'I-'A�' jiu-ar implie$ the same. Apart from Ibn al-Kalbi, no exegetes mention Iraq or Persia i., cJlplanation of the two (or two sets at) journeys mentioned in the Qur'iin. The descriptions of Qurashi re­ lations with Muqar and Rabia along the Iraq route arc given ill connl'C­ (ioll with their visits to Dnmat al-Jandal (modcrn Jawt), and it is neither said nor implied that they used to cominuc to l;Ilra. The stories that de­ pict Abu Sufyan and Musiifir as traders ill l-.Jira have variants in which the trade is omitted,'J) and the same is true of Ibn al-Kalbi's aC(:oum of ''' ,\I'·e, nil).

The tribe from

which he soughtjiwd"r was Tani'.

explicitl,. men·

tion�-d b,. Ibn I:bbib and Mlnuqi as In III,. of.\Iu(,lar thll resp«ICtl lhe ;,..iliny. 1\8/�fll HiJlo,).

"1. '50. Von Wi..m,nn. on the olher h.oo. locat..f"J"us '\/ot. mcm;""Old not h ..·.., been a ref=nc� to \ , 1Ctuary of m.�>r importance: but the sanctuary isdescribed u

T1C aCliw onl}' in tile holy momh•• o n . par "';Ih ·Uki� .oo other pilgrim rairs, unlikely to h


it is

1, . city, let alone 0 cityaUed �1c.:ClI (d, Nonno.u. in Photius. Bib/io·

l�" , 5 f.). .. Cf. •h(wc, ch. 5 n '9 .

.. P. Crone and M. ('...ok, ltllgantm. pp. '7' n8 (on the Com/;'MlfioAr../P;ra, which givcs

,\lecra an Abr.h.,nic 1�lion bc:tw0 fail 10 gj'-e a name for it) .

.. Ibid., p. '73 "l"

' 37





have attracted attention outside Arabia: the sale of leather

goods, woollens, and perfume in pla(es such as Ilu�ra and Adhri'at was not likely to make headlines. If Quraysh were tradL'I"s, their L""Ornmer(ial a(tivities were of a kind (on{iucted in this area sin(e time immemorial.

It follows that the traditional question of how and when the Meeeans gained control of the routes between the Yemen, Syria, E.thiopia, and Ira$, Il, pp. .US ff.; Kiln. I*lifl·, p. '46. The trader i.• U5UIIJy I Yemeni from R. Zubayd (Zayd in Kalii';) or Sa'oI .I 'A.hira; but it is also suggested Ih" he n»y hi'·. l>o:-e n . non·Arab (Ethiopiln?). and in V.'qubi he i s a nonhun Arab. 1-" .,·enl is dated wilh ref...nce 10 tt.., Prophet·, age at the till,.,: he WI< ,w""'Y or ill his tWClties. '.



whole string of Yemeni traders to ,\\ecca for unfair dealings that are duly put right.H The stories may well have blurred the true nature of the events they describe, as Simon argues; indl't.xI, it would be more correct tosay that thcy are legendary. But if stories in which the Meccans boast of having sct up a board of complaims for Yemeni and other foreign traders in Mecca constitute "flagram proof' ("preu\'e flagrame") thai the Meccans "definiti\Oc1y eliminallxl thc merchants of Ihe YCOlen from the commerce along the inl"Cnsc route and organized caravans ro the Yemen thcmsclws," then any e\'idcnee can be adduced as meaning anything we like. The stories are based on the assumption that Yemcni traders were active

in Mecca on the eve of Islam; and though the non-Arab


supplanted by Quraysh in Ibn al-Kalbi's story of Hashim and his broth­ ers could be understood as Ethiopians from the Yemen and other Ye­ menis, the tradition is in general innocent of the idea thal the Meecans should have ousted them. The cara\'ancers who transported perfume from Aden m the Bynntine and Persian empires were presumably Yc­ menis; at least they arc not identifil-d as Qurashis,JJ and Ycnlcnis arc said to ha\'e frl""!ory of.�egetical origin, In e'pla"alion of Sura 'J'iR (ed up by Ki,ter. ",\1cxca and Ta,uinl."

f'P' '�5 ff. " With .lI due respect t o Kister, who se. Qu..ysh os h" 'ing o:ntrusted this .ml uther funClion, 10 Talllirn {cf. 'he prea:ding nUld. •, For hi! annoal Caranns to 'L'k��, � .I".,'c, ct.. 6 "�J; ftJ< hi, purchase"f Yemeni goods there. ,;0..., eh. � n$6.

" '\laniiqi, II�m;"Il, II. 161:1 .. Cf.

:\.l{bJ�T, X"

" 9, whe,.., . liller dispose, of his "ieti",', sword.t 'Uki�, implying

th.. this w., the pl."" whereone 9, where .\1,,·:1..iya h.. a cou""il of amfrs and K�rllitn�n, Qurash!,). " The Mecc.n familiarity with Syri.n lowns such as llufrl .1.. in'pr�..Cl! Lam"",n! .•

(M"l�" 1' . .. p).


Given that there is no way of eliminating the overriding imponance of Syria, it might thus bc arguni that Quraysh had two trading centres rather [han one, possibly to be envisaged a s an original settlement and a later offshoot. Whichever might be the original settlement, there would be a centre in the north, associaled above all with Umayyads, and an­ other somewhere in the south, associated primarily with I-iashimitcs and Makhzumis, the tWO being linked by common origin, commercial relations, and marriage tics. Such a hypothesis would wreak much more havoc in the traditional account of MUQammad's life than a mcre relo­ cation of Ml'Cca. Yel, as will be seen. Muslim accounts of the Meeean sanctuary abo su�,'gest that more than one place is lJcing described. A third possibility is that we should make a sharp distinction betwl'Cn "'Ieeca and Qurashi trade. or in other words. enrisage Quraysh as a trad­ ing pt.'Ople operating more or less independently of the place in which the), were recruited. Such trading peoples arc well known fmm pre-oil Arabia. Thus Pliny's Gebbanitac as reconstructed by Beeston origi­ natl-d, perhaps. in the Ni�b area. but operalcd all over southwest t\ra­ bia. handling frankincense, cinnamon, and Olher aromatics whcre\'er they went. and setting themselvcs up in a number oftowns outside their homeland, which Joes not appear to have funr.:tioned as the centre of either collection or distribution.77 Similarly. the 'Uqayl were acti\'e wherever there wcre camels. The families who organized Ihe trade were sclllcd in the Qa�im, where the agcnls likewise tended t o be rl'Cruitl.-d. But though the Qa�im


some e"tent served as the centre of collection

and distribution. mtl(;h of the trade was mnducted outside it.7� There is an even more striking cumple in thc Kubaysis, all or most of whom came from Kubaysa in Irall . hut who opoeratl-d as itinerant traders in Arabia. trading practically c\·er),wherc. it Sl""Cms. eXl""Cpl in Kubaysa it­ self.'9 All three pt.'i'pks spccialil.ed in certain commodities as types of trade rather than a certain region, and in the case of the Kubaysis and 'Uqa)"lis this was clearly a result of the dispersed nature of both goods and customers. Since Quraysh likewise handled goods produced every­ where in the peninsula, it n13kes sense that they should ha\'c been widely dispersed. operating as far away as Syria and the l.Ia� lramaw[, and even Ethiopia, \\:ithout much o\'erall connection bctv,'ccn their 3e,. Cf. Ikestoll. "I'liny'. G�hbanit.cH;id. "Some Oll,cn'arion,," I'P, 7 f. .

,. Cf. thc rd'c","u'!l gi"en abo,'c, "3' .

,. ,\ R"'·I1/a. p. ,/59.


tivitics in north and south. Mceea would simply be the place of recruit­ ment, to some extent perhaps of organi7.ation, but nOi the centre of col­ lection. There would nOi be any one centre of rollL"(:tion, hut rather numerous minor ones; and insofar as there was any centre of distribu­ tion, this was clearly the pilgrim fairs, notably 'Uka� and Ohu'l-Maj.b., nor Mecca-a point to which I shall come back. This model would have the additional advantage of making QUTaysh extremely well connected, especially in the western half of the peninsula, without erL'els 10 a M�.n who lik"""";,,, ",fused to Pi) (Ion 1:labib, MUllam""l. p ,14) A Hudhali selling sheep in ,\I,""CI caught sighl of AbUJ.hl (Bal:ldJ-ouri. A""'it. r. ,,8, All rhese arc more "ariatiom on Ih� /til{all""�lthcme). " A Hudhali50ld I prisolKrofwar inM�""Ca (abo,'�, eh. ... "91). Since Dhii'I-Majh wlS loclled in t�rrilory it is, howe--er, possibl� thll Mecca here stand. for Dhu'I-M.­ jn.

" A Kinoni sold In uns!"ified commodilY in ,\Iecco (Ibn I:fahlli, ,llunammaq, pp. '7S (.). Two ';\bliis are s"PI�nI ro h,a,'c sold rrousers fro", Hailr lhere (ablwc. ch. .. "15), ,\nd idM/ti, ,"'U (�ch.ngt>q4f, ), '46). According t(> Wiqidl, Qurayd' �"On�"hed lhemon wbetheror nO( l" fignl lbe b."kofaadr(Mag!Jd,;l, I. H)·

o, Cf. Lammms, Mu'/W. p. '63; iJ., '"Ri'publique much.nde," pp. 30 f. .. A..raqi, MI", p. ;4 (eiling Ibn lsl)iiq) ; Jim Hisn:m, ubm. pp. 94. 1 should � id�ntifinl .sA�1 seemS unan."ptabl�, d. Wittn Arabic (hi, nalM wa. S.I.mane,). inform' us that the Ar.rbs descend from I,hmael and H'gar, Ih.t such being their dt...""", lhe)' .bstain from pork .nd ob,e,,·. other Jewi,h pt.cti=, and Ihal i"sof.r .. Ihcr de,-i.te from Ih. pr.eri"", of Ihe Jews, this musl he as_ cribed 10 the I'p,e of lim".oo contact wilh OIner n'lions: Mo.." onlr k-gi,I'led for Ihe Jews whom he led out ofEgypt, and Inc i"'.nu ofIhe ""ighbouring region (sr. Arabi.)


in hislOrical faci.

Ifwe accept thai they resisted Mu�ammad more or less as described, Ihe claim that Ihey represemed the God of Abraham must be dismissed. This docs no[, of coursc, rule out the rossibili[y lhat they rcprescmed

an indigcnous deity known as Allah, and it is as guardiam of such a deity

[hal they arc generally cO\·isagcd in the secondary literalUre. But this hypothcsis is also problematic. Adminedly , up to a poim it makes good sensc. !\Iliih is associated with a black stone, and some traditions hold thaI originally this stone was sacrificial. ,oOj This sugbrcsts that il was thc stonc rather than the uuilding around it which was bayt a/lah, the house of god, and this gives us a perfen parallel wilh the Old Tcstamem betlxl. The cult oflhe Arab god Dusares (Dhu Sharii) also seems 10 have centred on a black sacrificial stone. ,"'" According to Epiphanius, he was worshipped together with his mother, the virginal Kaabou, or in other words *Ji'ib or b"Jib, a girl wilh swelling breasts. "0 A similar arrangement is met in a Nabataean inscri pti on from Petra thai speaks of sacrificial stones (nub' = aTl!db) be­ longing to "the lord of this house" (mr' byt) and, ano[her kd'ib lady. ' " If we assume that bayl and Iro'ba alike originally rcferrt.'i:I to the Meccan slone rather than thc building around it, then the lord of Ihe Mt.'Ccan house was a pagan Allah worshippt:d in conjunction with a fe­ male eonson such as al-'Uzza and/or other "daughters of God . "• • , This would git·c us a genuinely pagan dcity for Quraysh and at thc samc timc cxplain their dcvotion to goddesses. ' ' ) Bur if Quraysh represcnl!,.'([ AlI1h, what was H uhal doing in their approach ,hc 1101), ,\Iosclu�, ,hcy ..� pro,pt'Cliw: is m disoppean.:d , ,·ithou, lea"ing any wha'e,·tT in Ihe !r.dit;"'n. A",1 if "'c .imilarl)· dl()(>Sl: not 10 idC1llify il wilh th,' of.uch im finl ..nclllary of IsI.m, this silcno: b.:comes panicularly odd: a Tinl por'ance OUghl to have b«n an object of in""cti,·co. '.. Whell MII'lwiy. beg.n hi. building ail9. " ,\iamdy, the journey 10 S)·ri•. Onl�· Ya'q(jhi .c appJiro C,'cn 10. pr�·lsl.",ic1"'1f, p. '99: Ibn 1:la MunQm"'aq, p. 3J). \lut in {he rival story the croci.! ide. is that God sa"cd Quraysh the trouble of tnlvelling to Ih� mork en: O recollection of orrang"" bib,

mem. 'pecific to

\ , tec behi nd thcs.= as�t{ioos. J, 6 f.: �.\hkk.n merch.nts would . . .

" Srt for e>:amplc, Islamic Ifis/dry,


such go;xIs with them to S}'ria ""d, 00 their rct\lrn, would p.y I»ck their "·ould be pm ners their capital and all their profiu. In return Ihe5ctribcslTK'n would gua... ntt:ethe sa f et y of the ,\Iakkao caranns in thcir Icrritories. This was prob.>.bly the origiru.! form of lid!,

p.ct of security. which ,,'as the most ,,'iddy .pplied. OIher frms ofi/# i n" oh'ed a I"'Y ' la� by the Iribcsmetl "'i'hing to take p.rt in lnldc:. but unable to� Ihe

mc:m of

safct}" of �bkka" c...,·.", in th�ir lerrilries. Hilshim rullectcd tlw:sc tnc� to en.bk: him

10 org.ni1., thc ddenuof tho.., caravan,." J:ll)i� m.k.,. it quilt tl(�r th.t the 'lTangemcm� supposedly rcfcrffl 10 in the Qur!n "·ere of tither thc Olle ty?C (JI' Ihc o ther (N""il, pp. 10 f.). nUl Shabon ,,'ams both to be historical Ind duly ,upplies I different comext for the two, di"'l y changing the purpose of the lue, in ,\ueil �I-*. and these !",ople took O,'n Inc ta,� of carrying pro"isions to "1,"'i:t f}uraysh (rh"�]ibl. 1"h>mJr.

Wb.:n Hilshi", imported brt:.d from Syria

hb i m i

p. ,,6; J!bi�. Hurd·iI. 1'.


and fed Ihe Me,:can,;.fa.*Jnadbilika=lIl1� ;'6;'

.\1«ca during II ycar (If famine. thus fr,"ing the M«;Cl.n. from hunger (aoo'·e. n 1;). � he "",b it in Syria ..hert: it attr:ns I-Ie adlluees such Maori SOurceS as ui". hUI d"... not .Pp•..ntly know the "-M\; il V.ggioh. an Italian histo.-;.n who ...s in :"'c'" Zuland at the lime .nd who is .he main $Oore< hehind I...mcm.ri·s af." l�ilJorigine� de I'hlarn." Studiu Irlumica , ( 1KIn. uf, �

I il

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flllmUm, ;of.

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Ali [1.0. ALi T�liLI. W'. � Alliih. � ,�, All.!. i.!. '.l± ,80;0, 1!,. .6If"


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Kyun.iunI, Byumincs, 116",

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camel IIru� . .!.!


cani•. !!'.:, !!i.:.z JM -+,f..

cloth. d(�hing.

8,,111;". 'j

Kul)rin, 21f. Bullin. 6£. bunion, wf..

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('�ylon. )Ii'''.

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l>'ba, i.,

,�f., �



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llo"lafh, sn Ti'if INriJ. !2"i! 'Oi.

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trade, att;lud", to. !!2.

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